PlayStation war against the IS

Tomorrow Dave will let slip the dogs of war.

But, in compliance with Shakespeare’s original, the crying havoc part will come first.

Dave will entertain his parliamentary colleagues with a few horror stories about IS monstrosity, beheadings and some such.

The canine part will follow, with Dave and his jolly friends, now suitably worked up, pushing the button for yet another PlayStation action against the nasties.

But there will be strings attached. We won’t bomb the IS in Syria, which is where its command centres and power base are.

Iraq, yes. Syria, absolutely not. Dave has doubts about the legality of letting the Tornados do their thing over Syria for as long as it’s ruled by Assad.

Another must, and here Dave and Barack agree, is that this phase of the war will involve no action on the ground. It’ll be strictly PlayStation stuff: hands on handles, fingers on buttons, eyes on the head-up display.

Characteristically, neither the USA nor Britain worried very much about international law in 2003, when they invaded Iraq on a trumped-up pretext, or rather a series of them. Nor did they have many seminal doubts about the advisability of using ground troops then.

Such doubts would have been useful, for it was entirely predictable that the criminal invasion would serve one purpose only: radicalising the whole region which only Ba’athist tyrants could keep at a more or less even keel.

The IS is an equally predictable spin-off of that harebrained adventure. The West’s invasion provided a catalyst for the diabolical rancour that for the last 1,400 years has never been far beneath the surface in the Islamic world.

If in 2003 the West had a choice, now there is none. The region must be pacified, and the IS must be eradicated.

This is a task that can never be accomplished by PlayStation war only. The IS decapitators are guerrillas, not regular troops.

They take their cue not from Caesar and Clausewitz, but from Mao and Osama bin Laden. They won’t stay in one place to be hit by our bombs. They’ll mix freely with the local population, using it as a shield. They’ll hide in schools and hospitals, daring the West to get all the bad press the way Israel got it a month ago.

What then? Shall we say sorry, we were just leaving, or shall we level a few towns densely populated with women and children? Hobson’s choice, if you ask me.

Yet again we are being drawn into a war that has no clear tactical objective and serves no feasible or indeed discernible strategy. The result will be not one IS but several, all seeking vengeance on our soil.

And why not Syria, pray tell? Dave’s mealy-mouthed references to international law don’t really convince too many people, especially those familiar with the history of the last decade.

Thing is, those who cut off the heads of Western hostages are the same people who are trying to unseat President Assad. In other words, they are exactly the same people on whose side Dave wanted to join the fun a year ago.

For him to unleash the Tornados on the heads of his would-be allies would be owning up to that peculiar combination of idiocy and immorality that our politicians have made their stock in trade.

Dave has no problem seeking an alliance with Iran, even though he knows that the price for its help would be the sudden onset of myopia among the West’s nuclear inspectors. It’s an alliance with Assad, who so far hasn’t tried to acquire hydrogen bombs, that Dave finds unacceptable.

If Iran does indeed enter the war as our proxy, a decisive victory against the IS will be likely. But the price of it will be the emergence of Iran as the only superpower in the Middle East – not a prospect to fill our hearts with joy, especially since the newly empowered ayatollahs will almost certainly acquire a nuclear capability.

The only sensible action now would be to invade on the ground, without worrying too much about the casuistry of global legality or what the UN will think. It’s too late in the day for such concerns.

Hit them fast, hit them hard – wherever and whoever they are. And while the cleanup operation is going on, a sensible post-war strategy should be worked out.

This ought to be based not on the mythical distinctions among Muslims, fundamentalists, Islamists, moderates and Islamofascists. We must finally reacquire the knowledge we possessed 1,000 years ago: the problem comes not from any particular version or interpretation of Islam, but from Islam as such.

The only way of containing and internalising the Islamic hatred of the West is to show naked, unrestrained strength. The West must be prepared to go to any lengths to send an unequivocal signal to the region: no aggression against us and our allies will be tolerated.

Historically the West has only ever been able to hold its own against Muslim expansionism when the balance of power was on the West’s side. Well, now we are physically stronger vis-à-vis Islam than we were at the time of the Crusades.

Moral strength is something else again, and that’s what it takes to send a simple and believable message: the consequences of any anti-Western violence will be dire not only for those firing the guns and wielding the knives, but also for those who recruit, train, finance and inspire them.

This may take regime changes throughout the Middle East, the taking over of the oil fields, strikes against cities – whatever is necessary. It’s our own stupidity that let the genie of Islamic radicalism out of the bottle. It’s only our resolve that can drive it back.

Is this what Dave will be telling Parliament tomorrow? Somehow one doubts it.

Instead there will be more nonsense about limited action, the absence of footwear on the ground, the special relationship with the USA and the urgent need not to tar all Muslims with the same brush. Islam, after all, is a religion of peace.

I wonder if the idea of introducing democracy to the Middle East will get an airing. It probably will – we know how well it worked the first time around.







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